International Health Insurance
Health care systems vary from country to country around the globe. While many have no health care system at all, economically developed countries each have similar, yet different, health care systems that operate in some combination of privately and publicly funded methods. Health insurance generally applies to coverage limited to the carrier’s country, so in some situations, a person may require international health insurance.
Not implying that there is a standard international health insurance system, but a person traveling to another country may need to insure that they have health insurance coverage while they are there. Since most health insurance policies in the United States limit coverage to a select group of physicians, commonly known as preferred providers, an insured person leaving the country may or may not have health insurance coverage.
To understand why health insurance coverage is not global, consider the different ways that countries fund and operate their health care system. For example, in Canada, health insurance is provided by a federally sponsored, publicly funded Medicare system. Though any province may opt out of the system, none currently do, making the Canadian health care system operating very differently from the United States. Similarly, Australia also has a Medicare system in place that is funded by a combination of income tax dollars and general funding.
If you are a resident of the United States and are traveling outside the country, you should check with your current insurance company to determine whether you will have coverage. In many cases, you can use your current health insurance to pay for expenses at an out of network level. However, that is not a guarantee and you have to verify whether coverage applies. It may be necessary to obtain international health insurance coverage before you travel, especially if you plan on being out of the country for an extended period of time.
Similarly, if you are coming to the United States from another country for an extended period of time, it may be necessary to obtain some sort of coverage for health care prior to coming. There are many different extenuating circumstances that might warrant different levels of coverage. For example, if you are planning a cruise that sails out of US territory, you probably do not need to acquire any additional coverage as your current health insurance will probably pay any expenses incurred by the ship’s physician. However, if you are planning a trip to Europe for a month, you will need to secure adequate coverage for any potential health care expenses incurred.
Before you begin to worry if you need international health insurance coverage, check with your current policy administrator. You need to have a basic understanding of your coverage limits and exclusions. Contact an insurance agent if you need to purchase additional coverage for your situation. In most cases, you will probably find that no additional coverage is necessary, though there are certainly situations where some variation of coverage will need to be attained.
It is however important to remember that in most parts of the world, doctors share the same Hippocratic Oath and will provide medical treatment regardless of ability to pay. Still, you should be as well prepared as possible before you travel.
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